MARCH 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News
Project Labor Agreements under attack by business groups in Harrisburg
BY PAUL TUCKER
REGION, February 2nd- Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) in Pennsylvania have been under attack and business groups recently assembled in the state capitol rotunda and stated PLA’s should be eliminated.
A PLA is a comprehensive agreement signed by a builder and local craft unions under which a defined construction project is agreed to be completed by workers from local union halls, in return for the union’s guarantee of no strikes, a steady labor supply, and general labor peace. Under a PLA a nonunion contractor could still be hired for a project, however if they are selected, local unionized workers must be hired.
In September 2009, Republican Pennsylvania House of Representative John Bear (97th Legislative District) introduced legislation that would prohibit the use of PLA’s on public projects in Pennsylvania.
The legislation’s biggest supporter is the Association of Builders and Contractors (ABC) construction group. The ABC group is made-up of nonunion contractors and often lobbies for anti-union legislation. The business group was represented at the event in Harrisburg.
The Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council in Harrisburg in January praised a decision of the Commonwealth Court upholding a Project Labor Agreement between the federation and the State’s Department of General Services (DGS). The letter of commitment between the parties was to assure union workers will be hired for the construction of a 4,100 bed, $400 million prison project at Graterford Prison in Montgomery County.
Frank Sirianni, President of the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council said the decision reaffirmed that PLA’s can be beneficial on government funded building projects because they guarantee on-time completion of construction projects without diminishing community standards for working conditions and quality of workmanship.
Mr. Sirianni stated the ABC group participated in seeking injunction relief from the Court to prevent the DGS from entering into PLA’s for state funded construction projects. The ABC has vehemently opposed PLA’s for economic reasons.
“The fact of the matter is that many non-union contractors here in Pennsylvania and all over the country bid on projects with PLA’s and win those bids. They then go on to complete those projects using local crafts people and still earn a reasonable profit. They do this because PLA’s work. It is clear from this case that the ABC and their legislative allies are not really interested in creating jobs for Pennsylvania skilled crafts people. They are more interested in finding ways to line their pockets with our tax dollars and with little protection of our community standards as possible,” stated Mr. Sirianni.
More than thirty business organizations representing more than 5 million non-farm, non-government private sector jobs assembled in Harrisburg stating the business community of Pennsylvania hopes to work with state policymakers to create a more competitive business tax climate that will promote business growth and job creation.
David McCorkle, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association told listeners there are steps Pennsylvania can take to make the state more competitive, more business friendly and a place where jobs are created. One of Mr. McCorkle suggestions is to “eliminate or reform prevailing wage and labor practices that drive up the cost of public projects.”